Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last day and new beginnings

The last day of the year brings a sting in its tail.  Our car has failed the MOT and it has a list of other things about to go wrong too.  Fortunately, we have been ready for the eventuality ever since MIL almost strangled herself with the rear seat belt which seemed to self tighten every few seconds. Despite my protestations, Bev thought we should sort it out. Therein lies the fundamental difference between us...I seek for opportunity while Bev is motivated by love (only kidding!)

We've been looking for a suitable replacement all day...and have found one with the Toyota Yaris.  We've had Toyota for over twelve years and couldn't resist another.

I mentioned last post that I might share some new goals. I have taken a long hard look at what I would like to achieve in 2010 and have concluded that it isn't possible without change.  I will fail miserably.

I've not been successful with learning the French language in 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006. I don't want to fail in 2010.  Similar failures are in my personal history, genealogy and art, although I have set things in motion regarding my art...albeit only recently. I have yet to get out of my pram in writing my personal history and it's like wading in concrete at the moment with my genealogy.

Everything else seems to fit into and around my life quite comfortably.

To solve the problem I've decided to change things around to accommodate them...

  • Immerse myself in the French language by watching a film each week.  Read daily (French).  Listen daily (French) and study 90 minutes minimum each day.  I need to see, hear and speak it regularly.
  • Attend the Family History Centre fortnightly to carry out genealogical research.  
  • Create an art blog and website.
  • Create a personal history blog to update as and when...possibly monthly.
The only way I can achieve these will be to replace my daily blog with a weekly art blog and to use the time freed up for serious study.

I'm not sure if I can do this as I've always kept a journal, but I do know that if I keep things as they are it will be virtually impossible. I'm falling between stools with these goals.

Like a bee trying to escape through a window into the garden and forever failing because the window is closed, there is a real need to try something different.  I can clearly see what I want through the window but keep flying against it and getting frustrated...I'll never succeed in getting through to the garden to smell the roses unless I try something different.

I still intend to visit my favourite blogs as I don't think I can go a day without peeking and if it becomes apparent that this new arrangement isn't working , I'll revert to my daily blog for February.

Actually, if this doesn't work I'll be at a loss to know what to do next.

Happy New Year everyone.  I truly hope it holds everything you wish for.

We're off to Jon and Ann Green's house to bring the New Year in with David & Eileen and Jim & Briony.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Counting the cost

Just one more day and we'll be able to tot up every little bit of expense throughout the year. We wanted to carry out this exercise to see roughly how much we'll need to live on while in France.  It's quite exciting!

Of course, we have always budgeted and have always been frugal, but this year we wanted everything to be counted...even things costing 20p bought at jumble sales.

There are things which are big spends and not altogether essential but I think that is because our children have all left home and we are both working. It has been really nice not to have to think twice for once (if that makes sense).

I've also given thought regarding the social, emotional and spiritual cost of 2009 which will have a bearing on personal goals set for 2010.  Tomorrow I'll be sharing one or two.

Come on 2010...I'm ready for you.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I felt like Bambi on the walk to work.  It was so icy that I was slipping all over the place and just couldn't keep my feet. It must have been comical to watch.

Kirsty's (the girl I work with) husband has an uncle who slipped on Christmas Eve and broke his leg in 5 places...he's still in hospital. On Christmas Day, Kirsty's parents walked home and her dad slipped on the ice while carrying a bag of Wii remote controls. As he went down the bag swung up, hitting her mum in the face and knocking her front tooth out. It reminded me of that song 'All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth'. I know I shouldn't laugh, but it was funny...especially when she told me that her mum had swallowed the tooth as she landed on her backside! I don't know about Wii but I nearly wet myself with the imagery.

Kirsty has just gone home.  I hope she doesn't have any slip-ups! She had an operation on both knees and a fall will be very painful.

Today was not a nice experience as my heart was still on holiday.

Walked home in the rain whilst looking and hoping Bev might pick me up and save me from getting wet.

Arrived home, opened the door and steamed my glasses up.

'Aloah, she warmly smiled. Is it raining?

Monday, December 28, 2009

I don't feel guilty

Had a great night's sleep and refused to get out of bed at a time I would normally have been at work and ready for a break. My body was telling me something and I was in the mood to listen.

We eventually faced the world and hit the sales in Newark and Lincoln as well as buying plaster and coving for our bedroom.  I even started the ceiling before breaking off to enjoy a meal out with family.

We also found the perfect place for buying our sideboard for France.

I never returned to the work in hand...we chilled-out and enjoyed the day doing other things.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Early night needed

It was good to see John, Hannah, Robin and Scott today (I didn't actually see Niki or Helen). It's a shame I didn't have time to chat for too long but I suppose the opportunity will present itself before too long.

Unfortunately, John has a good memory and is holding me to a promise I made to walk the Three Peaks in May.  I think the walk will see me off!  I guess I'd better start getting into shape.  No more mince pies thank you!

During church I heard Bev mention to someone that she was nipping to the cemetery to see her dad, so I followed some time later and saw from a distance that she was alone by the grave.  It was windy and she didn't hear me approach and put my arm around her shoulder. She screamed! I screamed!  Some comfort I am! I'm glad we were the only ones there.

We had Brian and Trish and the family drop by on their way back to Basingstoke this afternoon. The visit kept us indoors as we were planning to go see Tom...which would have resulted in another late night no doubt.

We are feeling better for staying indoors and made the most of it by calling a few people including my sister.

Today was as quiet and tranquil as yesterday was noisy and hectic...both were welcome. I like contrasts.

An early night (before 11:00pm) will be most welcome as events are catching up with me and rendering me incapable of clear thought.

I'll wait till tomorrow to catch up reading my favourite brain is too frazzled at the moment.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A blur

The day was a blur but I know we had a great time together.

We are back and It's late. I'm so tired that I can't even think about how to describe the day.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

It's a bright blue sky but very cold outside.  We didn't feel inclined to rush this morning and enjoyed a leisurely pre-breakfast walk before returning to an extra-warm and inviting home.

There was still prep to do before we set off for Martin & Sarah's and a well anticipated traditional Christmas Dinner prepared by Martin.

He did exceptionally well, beginning with Large flat mushrooms filled with goats cheese and sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and a dollop of country chutney.

The main course was the traditional turkey dinner, but what was remarkable was that everything was cooked to absolute perfection.  You know how horrible veg can be when over-cooked. Martin excelled himself.

Dessert was trifle, Christmas pudding or Christmas cake...or all at the same time I noticed for some!

We pulled crackers and stayed a long time at the table.

Later we enjoyed exchanging some presents and watched 'The Invincibles' cartoon and 'Annie'.

It was difficult to leave and a shame it all ended so quickly.

Back home now and we still haven't exchanged our presents. We've been busying wrapping things for tomorrow and preparing food to take so Juli doesn't have the entire burden.

This is the painting I did last week but didn't put on my blog in case Juli saw it before's of Chris and the girls...a particular favourite photograph of his and hopefully now a favourite painting.

Looking forward to tomorrow as all the family head for Sunderland and an excited Juli & Chris wanting to show us their new home. It's going to be a special day...I'm excited just thinking about it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cold comfort

Now is the perfect time to wish all my blogging friends throughout the world a very Happy Christmas...especially Randi, Robert, Eileen, French Fancy, Phil, Juli, Jean, Helen and Blu who have contributed by leaving comments often more interesting than the post itself.

I don't think you need me to tell you to make the most of Christmas as I'm sure you will. I look forward to  your posts in the coming weeks if you recover in sufficient time.

Yes, I did paint today, but I feel a little under the weather with signs of a cold creeping up on me.  Yes, I know!  It'll just be my luck to feel grotty throughout the celebrations!

It's an early night for me I think.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Not all doom and gloom

Britain is in the grip of ice and freezing fog. Officials are under fire over ungritted roads. The AA are dealing with 700 calls an hour (busiest for 25 years and the airports are crippled.  On top of this, we are in the worst recession since 1955. These are some of the headlines from the national press.

I'll still eat, drink, laugh, make friends, appreciate what I have (and haven't got) as well as try and make the world a better place...all of which is easily affordable.

Tomorrow I'll wrap up warm and go out to shop in the brilliant sunshine without a snowflake in sight...such are the benefits of living in a protective valley. We rarely see extremes in anything other than the people who live here.

Time to help Bev wrap some gifts.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


What a long, long day!
Bev picked me up from work and we went straight off to Nottingham.  She was the taxi-driver for her mum as she made her visits with Dot.  Dot isn't well enough to drive at the moment and shouldn't really be out and about so Bev was happy to make it easier for her.

I met up with Martin to go and visit Ji Fang Xue to see if she and the family needed help moving on the 28th.  I have never met such a happy and positive little family.  It doesn't matter what happens in life to deter them, they turn things around with a smile.  We also dropped off a Christmas card and hamper for Hong Chi who, like Ji, is also infectiously happy.   Bev Cotton and Jaimie-lee were the final family we visited before meeting up with Bev at church...where I found my back-pack.  Yes, the very same one that I thought I'd lost forever.

Back home again and enjoying a Horlicks and two chocolate biscuits.

Life is good!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Going through the emotions...

  • It's a hard and frustrating day at work which led to two paracetamol and eventual relief.
  • We were delighted to have been awarded third place for our desk decoration...a competition we never entered.
  • I've now misplaced my back-pack...the one that allowed my journal to escape a month or so ago. Frustrated!
  • Very pleased to hear that Paul Hutchinson has at last confessed to killing Colette Aram in 1983 in nearby Keyworth.
  • This evening we enjoyed a meal at Muston Gap with friends of over 40 years ...14 of us behaving badly and learning new things about each other.  It was a good evening marred only by the fight in the car park afterwards. Flinn missed me with his first attack, but Jon Green managed to catch me with a body blow.  I recovered though and managed to hit Bev in the small of the back.  It was snow-balls of course and, had there been enough snow, the fight will have lasted a lot longer.
I've no interest in snow right now as it has virtually crippled our country. I have to say that it doesn't take much to bring this country to its knees.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Snow at last! But it's barely covering the hardened ground.  It's -5 degrees as we get into the car for church and our best friend was the heater from the front and the hot air from the back seat.

Actually, she was quiet for most of the journey...does she secretly read my blog or is she worried about her friend? I think the latter is probably the truth of the matter.  The cancer has returned to haunt Dot and she was to start chemotherapy again this week.  They stopped abruptly, wide-eyed and needle mid-air when they found out she hadn't taken the pre-requisite medication.  I was shocked to learn that had they injected her, it would have resulted in instant death. Surely that can't be right?  Anyway, she was shocked too and had to return after the steroids had taken effect.

We visited Bev's family in Mansfield after church and enjoyed a spread associated with causing a spread...if you get my drift, or is that midriff?  It was good to see everyone but we had to leave early because of the snow.  Yes, the SNOW!  As we drove onto our drive however, it was apparent that no snow had fallen in Newark.

Incidentally, it was so cold today that one of the windows at church-a toilet window intact for over forty years- suddenly shattered when the heater below it was turned on.

It's nice to be snug, warm and cosy indoors on a day like today.

We'll be watching 'Cranford' in a little while as we write Christmas cards to post tomorrow...better late than never!

If I don't wake up to heavy snow, I'll be most disappointed.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


No snow when I woke up.
No snow when I put the boards up on the bedroom ceiling with help from Ash and Jon.
No snow when we walked into town in the freezing cold.
No snow as we ate hot chestnuts from the buttermarket.
No snow as we trudged back in the bitter cold with arms stretched with bags.
No snow as we drove to Bridgford to listen to the Christmas Carol Concert...the choir, quartets, duets and soloists  were excellent (Martin said I sounded like I was at a football match).
No snow as we stopped at a nice looking chip shop on the way back home.
SNOW falling as we left the chip shop.
No snow by the time we got out of the car.

What have we done to deserve this? All I want is to throw a snowball at Bev!

Surely there will be snow when I wake up.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Painting session number 3

The whole country had shedloads of snow but not one single snowflake hit the ground in Newark .  I jumped out of bed in anticipation but peered through the darkness into a frost-laden garden devoid of anything magical.  Perhaps tomorrow.

Paris 24x20  oil on board.  Still work to do (I'll replace this photo with a sharper on tomorrow. I don't consider this painting to be the way I want to go. It's not loose enough.  I think I'll do another very loose and brighter version.

Josselin 15x15 oil on in progress.  This is in the blocking-in stage...another blurred photo.

I did start and finish another painting but don't want it to go on show until Christmas.

I haven't been outside at all today and feel the worst for it. It was almost dark when I started and dark when I finished. I always feel better if I'm exposed to the elements for a while. If there is snow tomorrow I'll be out first thing to have a roll around...getting excited!

Bev has just made me a hot milky drink and a slice of malt loaf covered in butter.  It's just what I want but I felt like an old man in a nursing home as she brought it to me.

Tomorrow night I'll bring one to her.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hoping for something magical

A long hard day of painting Paris and Josselin has flashed by and I've done nothing else but send a few emails, searched the loft for a nativity scene, read a few blogs, taken a few calls, eaten, written and posted cards and watched a true movie film with Bev...'One against the wind', about Mary Lindell (French resistance)...really good! She certainly made a difference.

I've been trying to obtain strength, vibrancy, light, texture, contrast and colour in my painting...not easy! Still lacking spontaneity I think.  We'll see what tomorrow brings.

I hope I wake up to snow like my American and French'll be magical!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gone to Pot...

Every road I drove along today was just about recognisable but strangely unfamiliar. I think it was down to me being on auto pilot with my mind snapping back now and again to what should have been very familiar, but wasn't.  Truth be told, I'm deteriorating. I'm falling apart and I'm not as sharp or as attentive as I once was.

It may be that I've just had too much food and chocolate...way too much chocolate!

Anyway, I'm back home now...there's no place like home. A good nights sleep should sort me out.

My Secret Santa gave me this gift's a radio to be used in the garden and is called 'Gone to Pot'.  See, even they have noticed!  Granted, I need to be more in tune but I thought it was more appropriate for Bev and her recent dodgy activities down at the bottom of the garden.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Feeling a little under the weather

We were allowed to decorate our desks but weren't allowed to hang anything from the ceiling.  Everyone was obedient...except that bank of desks over there (you might have to click the image to enlarge). They are our desks and I was the rebel with a cause.

We were dreaming of a white Christmas and our dream came true although you could say that we were feeling a little under the weather!  The blue screen is mine and Kirsty is opposite.

My desk...Karen speaking with Kirsty

Tomorrow is our team meal.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas tree

I thought it was funny that the reindeer were at our workplace today but were too grumpy to have photographs taken. They need to snap out of it and get into the Christmas spirit soon otherwise there will be a lot of disappointed children next week.  I told them so, but I don't think they were listening.

I braved the loft in search of our Christmas tree.  We used to have a real one but it became almost impossible to get the right size, price and shape, so this is the convenient alternative. Perhaps when we are in France we will go back to the real thing.

All we need now is a spray to replicate that fresh spruce smell...and the presents on display of course.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Bev woke up and promptly headed for the bathroom and was sick. This consigned me to a journey feeling alone-without an ally-in a confined area with MIL as we drove to church.  The frost outside was matched by the frost inside and for what reason?  I have no idea, but fortunately there was a big thaw and even sunshine before we got out of the car.

I just don't know where the time has gone since we arrived back from church, but it certainly has gone.

Bev is feeling a lot better for the extra rest.

We've had a more relaxing than normal afternoon and evening.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Robert Brault

"Most obstacles in life have no power to stop you but only to make you stop yourself."  -Robert Brault.

I had a rotten old night and feel the need of something to take the 'I think I'm going to die'  feeling away. The above quote was just the thing...nothing will stop me today...hopefully!

I was sad to learn that Robert won't be around until March and his site won't allow comments to be left.

If you drop by here Robert be sure to have a good break and yes, I look forward to purchasing your book if it's ready in time and when you return.  It's long overdue.

My jobs today...
  1. Take the rest of the ceiling down in the main bedroom.
  2. Collect ceiling boards and screws.
  3. Charge the cordless drill.
  4. Clean all the blue bricks with acid.
  5. Bevel mortar the pillars.
  6. Clear up all the mess.
  7. Protect the pillars from frost.
  8. Put new ceiling boards up if time permits.
Paul and Debbie (+ the dogs) dropped by. It was nice to see them.

Well, the day is done.  How did I fare?

I had to haul  the 8'x4' boards upstairs by myself as there was no one to help. I also bought the wrong type of boards and had to put a bevel on them myself. The tool I used to put the bevel on was blunt and had to buy a new one. These were only obstacles however with no power to stop me.

Ashley and Jon agreed to help me put the boards up (I've forgiven Ash) but Jon was delayed so we've had to plan for another day.

All the other jobs were completed so it's been a very successful day.  The really good thing is that the wall is finished in terms of bricks and mortar...the wrought iron will be done as soon as I can find someone to make it.

Taking the ceiling down was a very, very dirty job...

The wall...

Now is the time to sit down, relax and watch a movie perhaps. Bev hasn't stopped all day and is really tired...I'm pretty bushed too.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Painting session number 2

"Art is about deciding what to maximize and what to minimize to maximize it".   -Robert Brault.

After a long hard day of painting, I met Bev and we drove into Newark to do some Christmas shopping. When we returned I went upstairs to bring the Mac down from the studio...but it had gone!  I couldn't find it anywhere.

While we were out, Ash had dropped by and before he left again had unplugged the mac and tucked it in our bed with the top half of the screen resting on the pillow.  Bev eventually found it based on 'Lets look in the most improbable place' rather than my idea of 'Lets look in the places where is should be'.  I revisited the two places time and again and stared in disbelief at the empty spaces.

He laughed when I called and wanted to know how long it took me to find it..  Kids!!

The big problem of the day is that the mac isn't picking up the pictures I took of the paintings today.  They show on the camera but I can't transfer them.

Jon is coming over tomorrow so perhaps he can sort it for me. I'd ask Ash, but he has already spent too much time here of late. Besides which, I'd clonk him for being such a twit, so it's best not to invite him for a few years!

Sorted the problem...Paris (unfinished and way out of focus). 15x15 oil on board.

Cornwall...just a bit to do when inspiration visits...24x20 oil on board

I like to re-visit paintings with fresh eyes in order to finish them off.  I'm still far too concerned with detail but the spontaneity will come eventually.  I'm wanting to minimise in order to maximise as Robert puts it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Today I was in Paris before nipping to Cornwall. I would have liked to have been in Venice but that will have to wait until next week.

Such is the life of a studio artist.

The sunshine was brilliant today and it took all of my self-discipline not to be working on my wall.

A good honest days work and plenty of time to think about all kinds of things.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Listening to reason

VF employees are forever ignoring pleas not to park on the main road in front of the building. Yesterday, a lorry ploughed into the back of one and like a row of dominos, 10 cars fell victim and were badly damaged. Yes, we have secure car parks that they could have used!
Now, we have intelligent people working here, but guess how many cars are parked in the same spot this morning?

Today I can guarantee snow at 11:15am as it's my job to manufacture it to hang directly over our bank of desks.  We've decided against our planned 'Bah humbug' in favour of a more festive spirit or goodwill.

Here I am tying each snowflake (I recommend cotton wool because it's a lot dryer and doesn't disappear when you touch it) every 4" onto invisible nylon thread which is in fact visible. Everyone has a specific job to do, so by Monday when I next come in, it should all look like the ideal Christmas morning and every bit as false as San...what am I saying!! I should be ashamed of myself.  I'm expecting to see a spectacular Bing Crosby Christmas setting. A totally white pre-Christmas lasting all the way through to the New Year.

We had a circular warning us not to hang anything from the ceiling.  Well, this isn't just's hundreds of snowflakes of which I'm prepared to compromise and take a couple down if forced into a corner...that's a measure of how accommodating I am.  I'm every bit a listener as the people who continue to park their cars at the front...I never learn!

Work is behind me now and Bev has helped me put the newly-painted wardrobe doors back on.  She's done a good job of the painting and I'm glad the job is behind us.  Now for the rest of the room (Saturday).

I'm preparing myself mentally for a different type of painting right now.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Oh, how frustrating!
Perhaps it's an age thing but I've just spent all evening trying to get my new printer to work.  It's working now that its got to know me better.  I used it to scan a photo onto a memory card.  It worked, but now I can't get it onto the mac after I put it back into the camera.  I give up! I'll try again when I'm feeling fresh and up for a challenge.

I wanted to show a photograph of Michael from Kenya who has sent us a note.  He's such a bright and happy little lad who has absolutely nothing.  it brought  tears to our eyes.

"Dear sponsor, I am happy to write to you.  I am learning well.  May God bless you for helping me.  Michael Mwangala"

He also enclosed his school if he needs to prove anything to us!

May God bless you Michael!

Here is a link to the charity Children in they are based just down the road from us and are such a warm and friendly couple.  Every single penny reaches the children and we are proud to help them fund-raise.

Photo of Michael to follow.

Monday, December 07, 2009

We hear you loud and clear...

On Saturday I listened to a Sky Sports National Television football round-up and all of a sudden Dave Bracegirdle gave a report on-air.  I couldn't believe my ears.  Was this upbeat, enthusiastic, knowledgable, powerful and professional person that the whole nation was listening to, the same as the complaining, sarcastic, self opinionated, moody, rude and arrogant renegade, loose cannon of a person I work with?  The answer is yes!

I know it sounds bad but I mirror the very same characteristics yet am considered a valuable team member and even he is. Yes, I actually like him and now that I've heard him on-air I think he is one of the very best sports commentators this country has on offer.

Like me, he mercifully doesn't display all of these negative traits at the same time, but I can't help but conclude that it's the company we work for as opposed to those we work with that brings the worst out of us.

We have been known to smile and even be nice, courteous, cheery, cheeky and-dare I say it- helpful, but it's difficult to sustain such radiance when we're chained to our desks the way we are and worked to near death (dramatic enough?).

We've pressed our case for remuneration due to the ever-expanding nature of our work which saves the company millions but as yet and unlike us, the corridors of power are silent.

That's life!  Anyway, at least we have a job!

Oh, welcome to Blu...a blogger extraordinaire and the very first blog I read...well, it may have been the second but certainly the first to inspire me.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The good, bad and delicious...

Now that's better!
I've had a nap and its worked wonders.

I've just nipped to the kitchen and had a rummage in the cupboard after smelling chocolate on Bev whilst giving her a hug.  I'm fully revived now having done exactly what Bev did and have duly told her off for being naughty. Yes, well I didn't try and conceal my craving and temptation along with slow unconditional surrender culminating in absolute sneaky capitulation.  I just went and got one.

It was a hectic morning at church and for the second week running the storm clouds gave way to brilliant sunshine.

Bev is on the computer catching up with genealogy and I'm here moulded into a leather bean-bag writing my journal as I reflect on the week past and the weeks to come.

All of England's past nobility including Kings and Queens have never experienced what I'm currently doing and I feel really privileged.  I'd much rather be blogging than exploiting people or cutting heads off.  Don't get me wrong, I like Queen Lizzie and have admired her in a way I find difficult to define right now but in truth I'm not a Monarchist or a lover of nobility though some evidently were and are...noble that is.  The strange thing is that I still feel pangs of patriotism when pomp and ceremony are on show to the world.  I just can't explain it.

There is but one King for whom I will honour and give my life if needed.  Of that I am clear.

Our Prime Ministers and their cronies are a different kettle of fish and have never made me feel proud in any way.  I'd gladly throttle the lot if I thought such an exquisite act would be exempt from the need to repent. Such thoughts are common to me and a continual acquaintance with repentance is assured.  The political system we have is democracy however and in this I am proud.

I reserve real pride and admiration for the countless individuals that really put the G in GB...the ones who make real sacrifices and who have genuine unfeigned love.  They are unsung heroes who are rarely portrayed in the media. Such people are in evidence the world over I suspect and without whom we'd be in a sorry state.

I'm off my soap box now and am considering getting a drink for myself and Bev.  We'll fight over the last chocolate biscuit because some things, my friend, are worth fighting for.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


The 48 blue bricks under a strikingly blue sky and wonderfully dry won the day, but not before another tip trip with as many bags of rubble.  The fine weather lasted as long as I needed it...almost!

In the wind, rain and failed light I struggled with flapping covers to protect my newly crowned pillars.

A day well spent and within spitting distance of another goal about to tumble.

Can anyone tell me why I should wake up at 3:15 am...again!

So tired!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Painting session number 1...

Well here we go...the first painting off the production line.  It isn't finished but it isn't far off.  I've also finished the small ship I started about five years ago but lost interest (not motivated with detail). It was taken from a book so I can't really claim anything other than painting it.

I've also blocked in (started) a few more paintings ready for next week.

Oh, and I thought I'll throw a few pics of the studio.  It's small but it's the only indoor room I'm allowed for painting.  My main studio is crammed with loft displacements and is far too cold anyway.

Studio shots...

Forgot to smile...

The tea clipper...6''x6'' oil on board...

The main painting... another of the pub restaurant in Josselin...10 minute drive from our house in Brittany. L'hotel de France...24''x24'' oil on board.

We're off to a baptism now...then perhaps a little Christmas shopping in Nottingham.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


By the time I sorted the studio out and fitted my north light tubes on the well as bringing my mac upstairs so I can check out resource material and listen to music and was 9:00am.

Last night I cleaned all my clogged-up tubes of oil and screwed the tops on firmly so it was a clear day of painting today.

The heater 'fizzled' as soon as I switched it on which sent me searching for my jumper and scarf. Not a good start really as it's pretty cold and it's one of two rooms in the house without radiators.

The day went well and I couldn't believe how quickly it passed. I had to drop everything and dash downstairs to prepare the evening meal...just as Bev walked through the door at almost 5:00pm. I've volunteered to do the cooking for Thursdays and Fridays which, I suppose, puts me in the 'very considerate husband' bracket.  Yes I know, I'm just too much!

I've left her to clear up and wash the dishes. Oops! there goes my halo!

I've just cleaned my brushes...not keen on the smell of white spirit.  It gives me headaches.  I'll have to get on the net and find an alternative.

Here is my studio shelf with my mac showing one of my paintings that I wanted to check the style of...high enough not to be splashed with anything.  The top of the painting I'm working on rests on a worktop and comes to the top of the shelf. I burned my easel earlier this year because it had twisted over a period of 25 years.  It's a good job they don't do that with everything that becomes twisted otherwise all my good friends will be charcoal by now.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The starting line...

This is my last working day of the week in front of a PC and I feel on top of the world.

I find myself at the starting line at last.

Tomorrow and each subsequent Thursday and Friday I'll be in front of a canvas or board with the goal of creating something someone would want to buy somewhere in the world.  This is in preparation for when I'm a full-time artist again... in France.

I don't need to sell at the moment but I do need to build up my stock for the future and have everything in position and functioning. If I'm to achieve this particular goal I need to make things happen and see steady progress, not sit on my backside dreaming. Dreaming is okay but it never becomes reality unless you actually do something.

I hope to convince visitors to my blog journal that to be a professional artist requires considerably more than applying paint.  It is not a romantic pursuit that is forever pleasurable or rewarding. You'll have my thought processes, frustrations, tears, fears and feelings along with how everything is achieved.  Well, that's the plan anyway!

Many a hobbyist who paints for pleasure and paints well has my admiration but I'll be walking a different path, one which doesn't guarantee pleasure or remuneration although I sincerely hope both will be in evidence. This will be my profession, warts and all! It's what I want to do with my working life.  It's what I need to be doing.

Each Friday I will post my efforts...even if the painting is unfinished.

On your marks, get set...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Sitting comfortably?

My chair went AWOL last week.  The carpets had been cleaned overnight and they just pushed all the chairs into one area. I ended up with a really old and uncomfortable one that doesn't wheel very well and stands at an angle. 

They should know me better than one who would take this lying down so to speak.  I searched the entire floor for mine which has a thread pulled specifically for identification purposes.  If I caught sight of the thread, I would then oust the occupant and turn it upside down (the chair) to reveal my name in tippex.

I had no luck whatsoever so the only available option was to nick someone elses while they were at lunch...they are all company chairs are they not?  I know I'm a Christian but when it comes to my chair the lines could be blurred! 

Imagine my surprise when I caught sight of my chair yesterday...located right behind me!

I became full Christian again by returning the one I borrowed and placed the wobbly one at the desk of the culprit who was due to start work later.

I'm continually finding out things about myself and my supposed honesty.  Incidentally, it's a little known fact that our beloved Queen Elizabeth carries with her on EVERY engagement her own toilet seat. M'am enjoys her comfort too and is even more fussy than me it seems. I can't recall ever seeing it hanging round her neck but next time you see her be sure to look closely.

I saw a cool toilet seat some time ago that had the image of barbed wire on it.  Another was in a bathroom the floor of which was an image of no floor at all and some twenty stories high. It really did look like you would step to certain death.  The best by far was a public toilet in France which was totally private if viewed from outside, but from inside you can sit and watch everyone walking by and perceive them as looking straight at you.

How did I get onto this?

It was so cold yesterday (and today) that my face was numb as I walked across the field.  To think that just a few weeks ago I was walking with short sleeves and no coat at all. I wouldn't go out without coat and scarf now.

I swapped my work seat tonight with a car seat as I drove to pick up the last of the blue bricks from Tom over at Harston.  I found him sitting comfortably on the settee in front of a roaring fire with a cat stretched luxuriously across him.  I enjoyed chatting for half an hour or so before loading the bricks then listened to Ralph McTell on the way home.  And here I am again...sitting down.

We spend an awful lot of time sitting down don't we...especially on cold and dreary winter evenings like this?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Spiders, bats and candlelight

On reading Jean's post about Christmas at A Very Grand Pressigny, I was filled with nostalgia and anticipation about our place in Brittany.

We haven't spent a Christmas there yet, but that could all change in 2010.  Everything has now been done to prevent heat from sealing windows, fitting internal doors, floors laid, boarding and insulation installed throughout.  The wood-burning fire is just waiting to show off and we are just waiting to see if it's man enough for the job. To back-up the wood burner we have heaters in every room (new and ever-changing regulations).

Not so long ago we had bats flying around our  electricity-less, mouse infested, draughty, cold and uncomfortable spider paradise.  We were able to see daylight from any room and I know there were more creatures iside than was ever intended. Nature had already took a stranglehold of the exterior and was rapidly reclaiming the interior.

How well we remember our pre-electricity candle-lit evenings of a thousand shadows amidst a total building site of an interior.

I think this is par for the course for all who buy French properties for renovation.

It has been a labour of which we eagerly wait and hope for love to evolve. Okay, so we fell in love with it first and its been hard labour ever since. We were smitten, but had we known then what we have since experienced we would perhaps have thought twice about getting involved in such a venture. It was all to do with the heart rather than the mind, so perhaps we would have been prepared to go through anything anyway.

We're glad we didn't give up. Too many give up at the first and subsequent hurdles.  Too many throw in the towel instead of resolving to work hard through all the storms and disappointments to the point where the sun shines and burns brightly (this is beginning to sound like a marriage!)

Anyway, such ventures really do share some of the characteristics of a successful marriage...commitment, dedication, sacrifice and love.

Well thanks very much Jean! Because of you setting me off,  I have no room or time to write about  today's experiences. I'm only kidding, of course!  It has been good to ramble on a little about the place.  It brought back some fond memories.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Church, carols, birthdays and bright lights.

The skies were dark and angry and the rain eventually poured on the way to church this morning but once inside it was warm, bright and friendly. The 18-26yr old Young Single Adults spoke to us...and the theme was?  You've guessed it!

Steph...Knowledge of Christ.
Deb...Who is Christ?
James...Suffering of Christ
Hannah...Death conquered through Christ
Daryl...Personal testimony of Christ in scripture and beyond.

Lydia, Deb, Suzanne and Martha also sang to us.
The other meetings were similarly uplifting.

This afternoon we dropped David and Helen Bourne into the centre of Newark ready for the Christmas Carol singing by the Carlton Male Voice Choir and the official turning on of the lights.

We missed the lights but dropped by afterwards to see them on our return from the family gathering to celebrate Ashley's 24th birthday.

It was a jam-packed day but very enjoyable.

Check these out...

David Bourne and John Collier up in bright lights...they sang really well.

Now our turn...

Bev and me up on the big screen at last...

Can't resist another...this time with Helen.

Bev with Edith later on...

Edith with...

Some of the lights just before entering the square (Bev in the car dazzling me)...out of focus but never mind.

Yes, it was a really good day with the family and, even though Juli was too far away to attend she was able to sing 'happy birthday' to Ashley with us via hands-free mobile.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lost for words

We've seen rain, snow, sunshine, family and friends.
We have laughed, had good food, good company and great experiences.
We've lived and loved this day.

I should write all about it but I'm just too tired.  I'll have a hot drink instead and go to bed happy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tragedy for Stefan, family and friends

What a tragedy this story is from The Times today...

"A former university student and grammar schoolboy was crushed to death in the back off a bin lorry after falling into a life of drink and drugs.

Stefan Tomkins, 31, was killed after he fell asleep in an industrial refuse container as he sheltered from the rain. He was unable to escape when the bin was emptied into the back of a truck containing a powerful crusher".

His parents had thrown him out of the family home because of his lifestyle and it's effect on them.  How must they feel now! I really feel for them.  Where can they turn for peace when something like that happens?

Tomorrow we go to the's a place where we go for peace amongst other things, but first we'll be attending our church welfare meeting tonight. 

For those who don't know, our welfare meeting is a committee that meets every month in an effort to identify and assist those in need. Such committees are replicated throughout the world within our church. No doubt Christians the world over and across hundreds of denominations are involved with similar good work. It's a shame Stefan won't benefit but hopefully others will.

I feel very fortunate that up to now I'm living a tragedy-free existence...long may it continue.

On the way home I was not too proud to stoop to pick up a penny.  I didn't even look to see if anyone was watching.

Today marked my last full working week at Vodafone.  I'll only be working Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in future and painting Thursday and Friday.  I feel quite pleased that I've actually done something to change my life experience...hopefully for the better.

So, from next Friday I'll be posting my efforts over the two days, and the expectation is that I will have produced one marketable work of art each week.

Mmm!  Do I feel pressure already?

Preston Temple...

We'll pick Jon up from Leeds on the way...really looking forward to the day!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Film night.

The Times newspaper have listed the 100 best films of the decade and guess how many we've been to see?  Only nine...

  • Devil Wears Prada
  • Hotel Rwanda
  • About Schmidt
  • Finding Nemo
  • Gladiator
  • Being John Malkovitch
I don't believe it!  In the background I have a quiz show showing on TV and just as I typed Malkovitch, Jeremy Vine asked a question about the film and said Malkovitch at exactly the same time.  Now what are the chances of that happening? It's amazing!
  • Minority Report
  • The Queen
  • Bourne Supremacy
I think the reason that we've only seen nine is partly to do with us never considering '18' rated movies or '15' without close scrutiny and boy, you certainly have to scrutinise 'em these days.

We've seen a lot more than nine but for some reason they aren't in The Times top 100.

Tonight we're watching Catherine Cookson's 'Dinner of Herbs'...old but good!

I was ill this afternoon and I've put it down to the beef we had on Sunday that I made sandwiches with today.

This evening I repaired the wing of the chair MIL knocked off, but had to go out and buy a countersink bit (left mine in France).

While we were out we checked out the two new shops that have just opened...Next and Peacocks.

In Next we saw a long slim 3' high solid oak sideboard with drawers and cupboards...perfect for the right-hand side of our fireplace in France. It's so elegant and timeless.  If it's in the sale in January we'll be tempted beyond our ability to resist.

Finished the for the film.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Christmas plans...

Oh my word, we almost slept in this morning! It was a rush to get up and out.  I am feeling every single one of my 32 years!

I'm at work now and thinking of Christmas. It's fast approaching and there is still so much to be decided.

We still aren't sure if Boxing Day will be spent in Sunderland, Mansfield, Leeds or Newark.  We don't know where the tree will be located and we haven't even started with presents (children excluded).

Are we bothered? No!   It'll be an uncomplicated and simple time. We'll be together somewhere and we'll be happy enough.

This year we've asked for a card through the postal system with an additional wrapped card inside containing our children's Christmas memories.  We'll put these under the tree...wherever that may be.  It's going to be so good to open and read them on Christmas morning.

There is also a family challenge out there with the adults only, to come up with the most original and thoughtful  present...costing under £5.  We're offering a prize for the one voted the winner.

We'll be starting the day on our own with a traditional early morning walk.  It's a great way to begin the day.  When the kids were growing up it was a time to reflect and talk about the Christmas Story as well as things we appreciate in life. It wasn't always a popular activity because they were eager to open their presents but they now look back on those times with do we!

By lunch time we will be at Martin & Sarah's for Christmas turkey.

That's it! The rest is as clear as mud...for now at least!

We've been out visiting tonight and, although enjoyable, we are back feeling tired and the worse for wear.

Time for bed.  Let's hope we don't sleep-in tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black, white and grey

I was trying to think the other day of when I first became aware of colour. As a kid everything seemed to be black or white...planes, bikes, cars, ambulances, footware, police uniforms, newspapers, photographs, watch-straps and TV.  Then there was grey for things like overcoats and battleships.

Americans spell it Gray and are convinced they are right, but we were first!

All right clever-clogs, I know black and white are colours too, but you know what I mean.

I think it was lipstick that first made me aware of real colour. No, I didn't have a use for it, but I remember my mother scrubbing up once or twice and giving me a smacker on the way to a rare outing.

It may have been my first sighting of a ladybird or the blue twist of salt in a packet of crisps or even the blue tissue of the individually wrapped fruit.  Incidentally, I emptied the contents of a crushed packet of crisps recently and was shocked at how much we pay for so little.  I've gone right off crisps. Mars bars aren't as big as they were either.

Bev also noticed that schloer bottles have become smaller but the price has increased.  In France you may think you are buying a tin of paint but when you open it you'll find only two thirds.  French paint sucks!

Anyway, I concluded that the first colour I became aware of other than what was caked in my nappy, was red...probably my own blood as a result of my dad's army issue leather belt.

I also remember watching the animals being slaughtered in the slaughterhouse down by the quay and watching the blood flow.  I can't believe they used to allow us kids to line up and watch.  Once, a bull panicked and escaped, which sent us scurrying down the alleyway with the beast not far behind us.  That was real fear for all concerned I suppose but more particularly for me who only had two legs.  The alleyway is still there and so is the shop at the bottom that I ran into for safety.

I also remember the black shawled widows bent over with age and who I imagined at the time to be witches.  If I thought one was looking directly at me I wouldn't dare make eye contact in case she turned me into a cat or something.

Black & White is the theme for our team Christmas decor this year...thought I'd just mention it.

I wish the newly proposed employee pension plans were as black and about confusing!

Black things that I like...liquorice, black pudding and that dress Bev once wore.  I'm also partial to black BMW's although to be honest I'd take any colour.

Today has been a bit grey but at least I haven't been rained on.

I'm looking forward to relaxing tonight.  I've just made tea for Bev (I don't do it as often as I should) it was only a jacket and filling but she appreciates things like that when she's tired.

I'm off to put a little colour back into her life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Aladdin stages

Just a little reminder...Sunderland 1 Arsenal 0.   Miracles do happen!

It's freaky weather today...thunder, lightning and lots of rain.  It's a good job I'm indoors and nice and warm.

Spent the whole evening preparing a surprise while Bev is out (it's for Christmas so don't say anything!)

Sarah, Me,  Martin and Lawrance...ready and waiting.

Starting to fill up...

The cast...

More photos to come of the performance.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Bev should soon be arriving in Sunderland.  Yes, she's left me!

I've been trying to put my finger on the reason.  Was it because I took half the ceiling off the main bedroom yesterday?  Was it my acting last night?  Is she really a closet Arsenal fan? Was it the thought of another week with me?

No, It's because our baby Juli needs her Mum!

Isn't it strange how the house feels empty when the person you love isn't there?  I'm trying not to feel the void. Norah Jones isn't helping.  Martin showed me how to transfer my CD's onto the mac and put Norah on there for me.  I'm looking forward to getting all my CD's transferred...not on a Sunday though.

I've been quietly reflecting on life since Martin and Sarah left an hour or so ago.  Quite often church has that affect on me.

Knowing as I do that there is life after death makes me think even more of how I'm living the one currently being occupied and what I think I should be doing with the rest of it...or what I can be doing to make the most of it.

I've been wondering about the things that may be considered clutter.   Should I have a blog for instance?  If yes, does it need to be daily?  Would I be able to create more time to study scriptures and French if I was blogless?  Would the lack of one contribute to more relaxation and time with Bev?

These are some of the thoughts floating around my head today.

I've concluded that I've been writing a daily journal all my adult life and I'm not sure if I can stop now.  I need to express myself and make sense of my daily experiences.  Yes, doing this on a blog is more time consuming, but much preferred to the journal in the attic option. I love to meet real people the world over and share thoughts and ideas.  Some people spend hours on games, TV or just lazing around so I don't consider time spent on what I do as wasteful.  It energizes me as I do something constructive!

I can have a weekly blog journal, but the one thought that is ever-present is one of the sense of loss at me not knowing what my Mother was doing, thinking or feeling on the days leading to her death. I understand the fact that she could have been too ill to communicate anything, but on the other hand she may have been happy, well and vividly expressive and I would have wanted to share it with her.  I just don't like the idea of my children not knowing what occupied my time and thoughts up to the very last day, so I'm afraid it will remain a daily blog journal.

It's my life and I want to communicate every single day one day at a time.  A week is too long and the content too selective for a complete picture.

The format can change however, and I'm looking at how I can incorporate everything I need to...paintings for instance, along with my life history and learning French which were destined to become separate blogs in the near future.  Some days will be very short with only room for one short post which could well be "Too tired to write and it's been a rotten day".

I think change is necessary.  I never want to stagnate, vegetate or grow old alone and forgotten. I never want to be mediocre even if I am. I never want to close my mind or dampen my will. I never want to be toothless AND thoughtless or without opinion. I want to learn, grow and experience.  I want to participate and contribute, empathise and commiserate. I want to give, love, feel, share and do until I'm not able to and hope that it will be up to my very last day.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Storm before the calm...

Bev is off to rendezvous with her daughters-in-law @ the Showcase Cinemas in Nottingham, leaving me behind to get on with things.  I feel more like Cinders than Aladdin but Hey!Ho!

I'm very much looking forward to the end of this hectic, hectic week!

It's cold, overcast and drizzling so I'm working on the front bedroom.  Here is my list for today (yes, where would we be without them?)
  1. Remove the 16 hinges and four handles from the wardrobe doors in preparation for painting them.  No, you fool!  The doors... not the hinges and handles!
  2. Remove the remainder of the wall-paper that was put up to hide the cracks in the ceiling.
  3. Cover the door-less wardrobes before sanding the ceiling or consider marriage counselling.
  4. Re-direct the position of the light switches from the loft.
  5. Fill the cracks in the ceiling.
  6. If time, sand the dried filling.
  7. Tidy up (if you know what's good for you).
Also...learn the lines that you forgot at the dress rehearsal last night.  Tonight is the night and I can't afford people laughing at me (fat chance!)

Catch up with Blog posts (done!)

I enjoyed The Machinist's Wife, French Fancy and especially A Foreign Quang as it coincided with my thoughts in the wake of our current flooding.

Robin has just called by to borrow a spade and we've tentatively arranged to go around during the week to see the still without a name baby.

Right!  I'd better get moving.  This is the nearest I'll get to being a "Twitter".

Now, do I take the radio to listen to Arsenal beating Sunderland as they surely will? Mmmm, yes I will, because you never can tell!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Children in Need...

I compiled this quiz for our workplace today. Can you answer any of them? By the way, I do not watch soaps...I had to look them up...except for the Simpsons and Ena Sharples.

Thanks Eileen for the answer to the minim question.  It would have been embarrassing to have set the question and not be sure of the answer...I was a 1/4 out!  It's no wonder I didn't get past grade 1V.

Unfortunately I'll miss most of CinN tonight as I have a dress rehearsal for the performance tomorrow night.  I'll catch a little of it but there is no way I'll be in a fit state to follow it into the early hours.

Children in Need General Quiz.

1. Name five colours beginning with 'P'.
2. What is the nickname of the bronze boxing medallist in the Beijing Olympics of last year?
3. Model 5,202,412...the last ever, rolled off the production line @ Halewood. What was its name?
4. Which "always will be famous” 18yr old was photographed cleaning toilets in December 2000? His Mum is even more famous!
5. What is the name of the Vodafone Group CEO, his star sign, when he was married, how many children he has and which army is he a reserve officer of? (1 point only, because we ought to know something about the man who regularly sends us emails and keeps us employed).

*Bonus question: Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special winners 2008…who were they?

6. Holby City...when Jess Griffin first arrived, what job was she given at the hospital by her dad?
7. What is the name of Emmerdale's Chastity Dingle's son?
8. Ena Sharples sat in the snug of The Rover's Return with two other women. Name them and which one wore the glasses?
9. Charlotte in LOST became a Cultural Anthropologist. Why? (5 points)
10. Who lives in the home of the Simpsons?

*Bonus question: The actor who played "Callan" died this week. What was his name? (15 points)

11. In any competition, what was the longest penalty shoot-out before someone MISSED?
13. Sunderland beat which team to win their last FA Cup Final and who managed that team?
14. The Premiership has how many teams, what is the name of the ground of the team propping it up and has Derby County ever been a Premiership team?
15. Notts County was established in this year.
16. Forest's City ground has what seating capacity?
*Bonus question: There isn’t one. Make one up and if you get the answer correct, give yourself 5 points

17. Who sang "My Ding A Ling" (5 points)
18. Who won 2007 "X" Factor, where does he come from and what football team does he support?
19. What is the value of a minim + a crotchet + a semi-quaver?
20. Robbie Williams met up with which group this week in preparation for Children in Need today. Where did they meet, and what was the final song sung?
21. Who is currently # 1 in the singles charts?

*Bonus question: Which group opened last year's Children in Need show?

Children in Need XTRA bonus questions 10 points each correct answer...

21. When was the very first broadcast for Children in Need, how long was the broadcast and how much did it raise?
22. What year was the first dedicated 'whole evening' programme for raising money for Children in need, who fronted it and how much did it raise?
23. How much was raised last year for Children in Need
*Final random bonus question: Up to August 2009, how many VF employees were there in both Newark sites?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

End of the day...

What a day!  We are out on bail at last. I tell you what, these government officials are pretty hot.  Yes, of course I'm kidding!

I've just arrived home with Bev and MIL and my eyelids are as heavy as dumb-bells.

On our journey home in the dark we passed dozens of homes with curtains open and lights on.  It was interesting to see how people decorate their walls and rooms. I'm glad I'm back in our house with the lights on.  I've closed the curtains cos I don't like people being nosy! Ha! Ha!

I'm now about to have a hot milky drink and a chocolate biscuit before hitting the pillar...make that pillow (I've got my wall on the brain).

Lots happened today but I'm just too tired to write now.  I'm even too tired to check on my blog friends.

I like my blog friends...It's nice to know there are good people out there.

I've been longing for this...the end of the day.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bev at the bottom of the garden...again!

I almost choked when Bev casually mentioned that Keith Woodward had died yesterday.  Keith is a good friend of the family as well as being Serene's dad.  What she meant to say was that Edward Woodward the actor had died.

I've never been happier to hear of his demise even though I liked him a great deal.
I've enjoyed his acting ever since he played 'Callan' between 1967-72...especially the early B&W episodes.

Here he is with 'Lonely'.


I don't know why I liked it so much because he always ended up killing somebody...usually a Russian agent. 

I suppose he was the less glam pre-James Bond without a hint of adoring women.  He was a cultured, chess-loving reluctant government assassin who was every bit as lonely as his 'snitch' and every bit as much an outcast too.

Speaking of government officials...I reckon we'll be getting a visit from one soon if this (see picture) turns out to be what I think it is.

Bev dug it out from the garden the other day.  Now I know why she's always anxious to spend time in the garden.


What do you think?  It looks like she's already been nibbling at it!
She took it into work yesterday to get the verdict from the 'Professionals'.  She insists a bird must have dropped the seed but I have my doubts.  Can you remember how often I've said how happy I THOUGHT she was  down at the bottom of the garden... for hours on end? Well, now I KNOW she was really happy and I know WHY!

We'll just have to see what government visitors we get over the next week or so.

On the way home tonight I accompanied Sonia down the dark alleyway and across the dark field as she was too afraid to go alone and needed to get home quickly.  Normally she would walk the long way round. She was surprised as we eventually approached where I live as she'd been passing the house every day admiring the progress but had no idea I lived there.

Tonight I have to finish the quiz for Children in Need day at work on Friday.  For once I'm certain to get all the questions right...but still not getting a prize!  

(There's something going wrong with my text size by the looks of it.)

Congratulations to Niki on the birth of her baby girl yesterday...and Robin, of course!  No name yet.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Forty people gave blood yesterday from my workplace and I was one of them.

I was pleased that my iron levels were above means Bev is giving me a balanced diet.

I was horrified at the form I had to fill in regarding lifestyle... and the size of the needle, but soon I was content with my life's blood ebbing away.

As I was stretched out recovering on the couch gazing at the grey clouds and lashing rain outside, I considered what else I could donate for the good of others.

Organs! Yes, they'd have to wait until I die but I could do that! Will there be implications?  Not to my health I concluded, but what about the resurrection?  Nope! I don't think there'll be a problem as a good proportion of deaths are of the blown to bits variety covering all wars and even times of peace.  It very nearly happened to me once...I suppose it can only happen once anyway.

When I was 21 I lived in Leeds and worked in a carpet shop for a while (it's now a restaurant).  One of my responsibilities was to light the boiler on the Winter mornings.  It was a monster of a boiler. To light it I had to screw up a few sheets of newspaper, light it, lie on the cellar floor, turn the gas on and stretch over to the pilot lights with my blazing newspaper.  Yes, you've guessed it.  I became the recipient of a blow-back which knitted my eyes together and frizzled my hair.  I was dragged out by my feet by Melvin and spent the rest of the day at "Jimmies"Hospital.  I wasn't exactly blown up but it felt like it.

Anyway, back to the resurrection.  I'm undecided. If I donate various organs I may have to organise a search party to reclaim what's mine and argue the toss if they haven't the common decency to return what originally wasn't theirs.  It sounds as if it could be fun! We'll see!

Perhaps I'll keep my eyes as they won't be much good to anyone else and I may well need them to go looking for other bits.

The resurrection is an interesting topic.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The strange case of the Darwins...

It's really too cold and blustery this morning to contemplate a paddle in my non existent canoe.  What fancy I take it anyway and plan to disappear?  My broken, deserted-washed up on the beach-red canoe will be the only clue to my supposed untimely and tragic death?

Once things have quietened down my wife can join me in faraway Panama City clutching a purse crammed with falsely claimed life insurance and pension funds. We could then peacefully live out our days in exquisite excess and kindlier climes to those offered by the harsh North-East of England.

Perfect! And it almost worked...not for me Mr Squeeky Clean Ken, but for John & Anne who are now left high and dry without a paddle between them.

Last week the Times featured this strange case of John Darwin who faked his own death with help from his devoted wife Anne way back in 2002. They intended to live a cosy life with life insurance and pension claims.  They were rumbled last year and last week the sentence was at last announced and justice metered out which saw them stripped of all assets and consigned back to jail...straight to jail, do not pass "GO" , do not collect £200.

I may already have told you about my connection with this case, but it's worth repeating.

No, I didn't sell him the canoe or arranged the life insurance.  Nor did I ever live next door to them even though I'm from the region in question.  I never did nor ever will meet them, yet there is a connection which was in evidence a long, long time ago.

Flash-back to 1968...I had recently left school and was back home in my native North-East England and shortly after that returned to live with my mother for the first time in about eight years.

To shorten the story, I was pushed into a relationship with one of the daughters of my mum's best friend and duly obliged.

I remember well my feeling hot under the collar as we sat in front of a blazing fire on the sofa in their front room with her sisters and mother watching our every move.  The family delighted in plying me with information that made her blush but I eventually found the opening to get ourselves excused so we could be alone before it got too late.

We ended up outside on the step in the freezing cold.  I almost wished we were back on the least I was warmer and a lot closer to her. I eventually edged closer and held her hand before plotting my move to kiss her goodnight but was horrified that a drip had formed at the end of my nose and was threatening to drop at the crucial moment.  I'm sure she saw it shimmering in the frosty air and illuminated by lamplight.

Anyway, before that fateful moment, I had learned that her younger brother had died.  Isn't it funny how you wait for positive conversation to be romantic but when you get news like that, all you can do is stare ahead in silence after an awkward apology and search for something comforting to say.

I wouldn't recommend first dates in February.  I don't think we felt inclined to see each other again but the family remained friends.

Fast forward 40 years...and my sister and I are reminiscing about the old days and she suddenly remembers the Jones family and recalls seeing my "girlfriend" in the newspaper trying to get a petition together to stop easy access to death certificates for illegal passport use.

Then it dawned on me.  I had read about John Darwin assuming the identity of a baby boy that had died from Sunderland's East End...only now was it confirmed to be the brother of my first date and family friend.

That's it!  A sad case and painful memories for many reasons.

We've gone from Flash-Back to Fast-Forward and now it's almost  time to watch Flash-Forward.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another special day...

I've been that busy this afternoon transferring everything over from my old pc and emailing family and friends that time has caught up with me.  I've had emails from 2006 to read through and decide if I should has worn me out!

Its been a really good day all the same although MIL is very quiet and didn't eat with us today.  I hope she hasn't remembered the conversation with Juli last night!  I'll do some investigating tomorrow.

I wanted to post something about the Darwin couple but it will have to wait for another day as I'm out of time and should be tucked up in bed.

Thinking about it, perhaps it isn't really suitable for Sunday anyway.

I should remember to keep Sunday special...which has been the case today.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tip, rehearsals, siesta, decor and football.

It was dry when we got up so we crammed the car with all the rubble bags and emptied them at the local tip. From the tip we cut across country and dropped something at the Flinns before carrying on up to our rehearsal.

The rehearsal went really well and it was great to see youngsters, students and oldies like me struggle to get the songs, words and dances together.  It's going to be great next Saturday...and a laugh, as I'm sure there'll be some who'll forget their lines and cues.  Hopefully not me.

The weather turned wintry on the way back to Newark so we stopped for a meal at Lord Ted as a bit of a treat.

It's way too wintry now to work on the wall and garden, so it's a little siesta and then we'll be starting the front bedroom.  It's our goal to have it all finished and move back in by Christmas.

Actually, we started it a while ago and have already dumped the carpet, but we can do some more on it now.  I only have this bedroom, front wall,  garden and a little bit of the kitchen to finish and I'll have completed all of the jobs I set myself this year...and a few more besides!

I enjoyed last night as we chilled with the Flinns.  It's only a couple of treats and general chat about anything and everything but we find it very relaxing.

Juli must have read my blog because she rang us there to ask when I'll be available to do some work.  I guess she's lucky I'm ahead of myself.

Actually, I remember now.  She phoned her grandma (MIL) and congratulated her on overcoming her fear of water and flying. She didn't read my blog carefully enough, and almost caused civil war.  Sorry Juli, I don't think I can help you now.

Mmm, I don't know!  I suppose she did at least warn me of what she'd done.  She also told me that she's unable to post comments on my blog.  My comments on a few other blogs haven't posted either so I guess there could be a temporary hiccup.

England play Brazil this evening so it's bonding time with MIL again.  Hopefully she will have forgotten the conversation with her granddaughter last night, in which case Juli could still be lucky.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A chilling Friday the 13th...

My thoughts on this Friday the 13th go to Chris and Juli and family.

I was intrigued by the fact that they met each other on the 13th. It was the 13th that the offer was accepted on the house they currently are moving from...which is number 13.  They met each other on the 13th and now today(the 13th) they become the legal owners of the new house... which is also number 13.

I hope everything goes well! We're thinking of you.

The number one (1) resonates with us Juli...

You were our first-born. You were the first to bring joy into our lives. The first of our children to leave home...which brought us more joy (kidding!) The first of our children to be married...even greater joy, and I'm not kidding! You were also the first of our children to have beyond measure.

Sooooo, I hope you realise that whatever you do next also brings with it expectation. No pressure!!

Up to now, this Friday 13 has to be my happiest.

I've just had my 1/2 yearly PD at work and they are happy too.  Our little team have saved the company so much money that we are rolled out to the powers-that-be as shining examples and a pattern for the future.  Although our individual bank balances will remain impoverished, it's nice to be appreciated.

Tonight we are chilling with David and Eileen... quite appropriate for Friday the 13th!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Je suis très èttonné que

Yes, I was amazed to see on Roy Evans Burstiner's blog the photo of Jacques Brel.  I've been trying to remember his name for months as I'd like to download some of his music from iTunes. 

I don't know what he sings about-probably politics and love- but he sings with passion and conviction and has a voice so powerful it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  I know he isn't a native of France, but the sound of the French language he uses is very attractive. It sounds raw and unrefined unlike those who covered his songs. My impression of the short introduction to him is that he was the Dylan of France. He also reminds me of Piaf the way he seems to wear life on his sleeve(is that the right expression?) and just sings his heart out and lets his emotions flow.   I saw a documentary about the 60's and 70's and there he was.  I can't say I approve of his lifestyle but as a singer he immediately caught my attention.  He's definitely up there in my top 20.

This post has published prematurely again.  It published as I was fiddling around trying to get French accents.  Can anyone let me know how to use French accents on my keyboard?

I'd like to finish the post if I get back in time from my meetings tonight...hopefully about 10:00pm.

It was pouring with real English grotty rain all the way to Bridgford but I had a fantastic time trying to learn the song Arabian Nights. The car rocked and I got a few strange looks as people overtook me.

On the way back home the rain had passed so it was easier to drive and sing.  More strange looks but I was determined to learn the song during the forty minute drive.

Bev had waited up for me and became the the one-woman audience and usherette for the special performance-without looking at the words. Yes!  That means I've learned all my words now with just over a week to go.  I didn't think I'd be able to pull the song in as well.  A week is just enough time to polish everything up.

Very happy...I just hope I don't have strange dreams as my brain tries to make sense of what I'm cramming in there.

Thanks for the advice Randi.  I haven't tried it yet, but I'll check it out tomorrow.

Bon nuit mes amis.

Next morning.  Oh it's dead easy on the mac Randi!  I've found the shortcut keys and it also works with Word.  Thanks!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

MIL...strong, stubborn, proud and British.

Last night MIL innexplicably conquered her twin fears of water and flying and agreed to come to France with us.

Now I don't often have such pleasant dreams, but this was one.

I've decided to feature her today as my thoughts drifted from Mussolini to her during our two minutes silence at 11:00am. ..she was born around the time he was coming to power and I was comparing characteristics (just kidding!)

She has some amazingly detailed stories of wartime which make nonsense of her claim to be losing her memory.
If there is ever to be another war, you'd want her on your side.

So, she's 78 year old and has been living with us ever since we built the extension to house her and my father in law who has since passed on.

She is as immovable as Monarchy and even looks like QE2 (the woman not the ship).

She is diabetic with high blood pressure and has other conditions I've never heard of or can spell.  Her prescribed pills and potions will keep a chemist open and fully staffed all year round I should think.

Under her own steam she has weekly forages into town and is regularly offered a seat in some shop in order to  recover from the implications of forgetting to inject her insulin twice daily.

She always returns with more than what's on her shopping list and the trolley she drags around with her is falling apart under the strain.

She regularly runs over my feet with said trolley...even when it's easier to miss me. I fancy there is method there!

She is famed for her forever-full bag of chocolate bars and  is now into 3rd generation supply on demand on Sundays at church.

Her generosity and thoughtfulness are only surpassed by her outspoken and stubborn tendancies.

Her tongue can be as bitter as it can be sweet and should you get on the wrong side of her, beware!

She has needles and wool permanently attached to her hands and must have knitted for every baby in the world.

Bev has to regularly check her cupboards and fridge to ensure she's eating enough as well as throwing away what might harm out of date meats.

She regularly leaves taps running...just when I want a bath!

She's well loved by everyone but me apparently.  But even I love her in reality...once I've had my bath.

We watch football together in her living room while Bev watches rubbish in ours and we travel to church every Sunday with her on the back seat trying to put the world right.

Pet hates...she regularly switches the radio on on Sunday when she knows we do everything to avoid it.  I know she's in her own 'wing' of the house, but we still faintly hear it.

Repetition...drives me nuts!

Perhaps sometimes too fiercely patriotic and politically incorrect.

When she leaves her door open and the TV is loud, we get the sound a split second before ours which is why I tend to watch football in her place...I was fed up with hearing her celebrating a goal before it actually happened in our room.

She has a good appreciation and knowledge of the game though and I like her company.

Loves...we love to hear her laughter faintly drift through.

We love to have her eat at our table on Sunday.  Sometimes we engage antlers but mostly we engage in good conversations.

I'm as stubborn as she is which isn't always good, but it's never dull.

Long may she live because I've been misunderstood lately regarding comments I've made and will feel really guilty if she pegs-it tomorrow.

Seriously though, she's great to have around and is as honest as the day is long in her opinions and lifestyle.

You'd go a long way to find a woman like my MIL.